Psychology + Zen = Philosophy and methods to relieve suffering and reveal happiness.

Psychology:  We project onto others what we reject in ourselves.  Some call it a Shadow.  Healing comes from making the unconscious conscious, taking responsibility for our projections, integrating what is split off as our own thing. 

Zen:  There is no separate self.  When we can be at one with every aspect, then we belong everywhere and we reject no one.  

We heal the world by becoming intimate with our whole selves.   


Wednesday
May032017

And, Rest!

Oops. I forgot the most important thing.

In my enthusiasm to Reckon, Refuse, and Respond, I neglected to include what makes it all possible: Rest.

Rest is what enables us to listen deeply to what is true, and Refuse what is false. Rest is what enables us to think clearly and Reckon with this political disaster. Rest is what gives us the energy to Respond in an effective way. Rest is what Donald Trump never does.

It is easy for me to get confused on this point. Growing up as a weakling with a disability I needed drive to keep me from collapsing into something that I understood I could not get out of. It served me well back then. When I couldn’t achieve popularity I studied hard and excelled academically. Later I studied popularity and achieved some. And along the way I pushed and pushed my body--to dance, to stretch, to keep going no matter what.

It’s taken me a very long time to understand that there is a whole other aspect of living that cannot be comprehended in the drive mode. Sitting zazen (meditation) certainly makes it clear, injuries make it clear, mistakes make it clear. Tasting creativity pulls me toward that aspect. In Feldenkrais practice there are these oft repeated messages:  Do less. Find a way to do it without strain. Let go of effort. Try it and see. And then after a series of strange movements:  Leave it alone and rest!

Oh, that.

The confusion comes when I’m doing something important, and something in me tells me it can’t be done or it is wrong or something like that. I then feel fear that I won’t be able to do it, so I start to push. But I don’t have the energy and I feel resistance, so I push harder, drink coffee, can’t sleep, have less energy, drink more coffee, don’t feel what I want to feel, push harder… You get the idea. It's a cycle.

Rehearsals for Fountain of Oldth have been alive and interesting. But when we decided to have an open rehearsal it became all about transitions and cues, ‘running through’ the whole show, getting feedback. It felt wrong to me, and that’s when I started pushing. The open rehearsal wasn’t a big failure or anything but it triggered a pretty serious relapse of chronic insomnia. And that’s when I remembered this. Rest. Listen. Follow the thing that matters, not just the thing that calls out most loudly for attention.

I'm doing my best to keep up with letter writing, petition signing, protesting with community, but I also want to bring attention to the deeper things, the things that made all this happen, like misogyny in the form of contempt for vulnerability. I want to stand up for vulnerability in all its forms--getting old, being a woman, being disabled, being poor. And that doesn’t just mean fighting for rights. It also means breathing into that soft underbelly and listening to the birds, for example, or really taking in the sight of the bright new buds sprouting everywhere now.

And then, sprout. 
 
 
 

 

Thursday
Mar232017

Understanding Trump? Running Amok

Image by Liz West“Can he help himself?” a client asked.

There is an idea out there that because Trump has malignant narcissistic personality disorder, he is not fit for office.  Without a doubt the man has narcissistic personality disorder, but don't you think most titans of capitalism are similarly afflicted?  Are they not grandiose, entitled, arrogant, driven to dominate and inflate their status?  Do they not lack empathy?  Are they not interpersonally exploitative?   

But using a mental illness paradigm to describe the ugliest aspects of human nature undermines the purpose of mental medicine.  A diagnosis should be a heuristic label, a summary that suggests a treatment, so the use of a diagnosis as an insult impedes the healing of mental illness every time.  If we find a narcissistic quality in ourselves and insult ourselves about it, narcissism defends itself and gets worse.

What to do about narcissism varies according to what theory you prefer.  Some say the narcissist has never been truly heard, never understood from the inside, so their needs for external affirmation are insatiable.  Some say the narcissist suffers from a lack of limits.  Usually relationships provide an ample supply of limits, because people are actually limited.  Unfortunately, some situations trump normal limit setting.  For example, great wealth.  For example, being a white male in a culture that disproportionately empowers and values the white male.  For example, (not quite on the point of Trump, but still…) having mothers who believe their own needs are not important.

As I was working this out, I said aloud in conversation that Trump hadn’t been properly limited and a person trying to be open minded blurted out:  "You don’t know that!"  This phrase has caught on in the Zen community.  Of course we want to encourage don’t know mind, but I don’t need evidence from childhood to know that Trump has not been limited.  All the evidence is in what he has acquired. No one stopped him.  Our culture praised and admired him.

And the same could be said for all the people who acquired great wealth at the expense of the poor and vulnerable who could not stop them, and who were entirely supported by our greed-admiring culture and the government bodies that greed has purchased.

So let’s shift focus from Trump the man to Trump the Running Amok of Greed, Anger, and Ignorance.  I understand what greed feels like, but I've been stopped from sucking up resources that don't belong to me.  I understand what anger feels like, but I also experience love and respect, which stop me from doing great harm.  I understand that I am ignorant and so I encourage myself to learn from those who know what I don't.  

Let me be clear.  We can't heal Trump the man but we can stop Running Amok.  Reckon, Refuse, and Respond. Repeat.  

Tuesday
Mar212017

Linda: The Nagging Crone

I walk around oozing questions about aging, beauty, and power, so people around me respond and make suggestions.  One wise woman told me to see Linda at the Manhattan Theatre Club, so I did.  

The play opens with an extremely pretty woman, Linda, claiming to be 58, making a presentation to a cosmetics company for a product called Visibility.  Inwardly I roared in response.  Hear Hear!  Or, rather, See See.  This unasked-for invisibility is a major theme that I and my actors are playing with.

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Monday
Jan232017

Reckon. Refuse. Respond.

What we thought was reality is not reality.  What we thought was a nightmare is actually reality.  

But, what is it?  Is it the man, Trump, who caused misogyny and xenophobia?  If so, we are merely victims.  Better to understand what his rise to power tells us about human tendencies and structures.  

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Thursday
Nov172016

Reckoning

I've written and dumped a few blog posts since It happened.  Oddly, I started with Reasons for Hope, then hope gave way to lament, so I parked hope and wrote First, Lament, but by the next day the fever had subsided and I felt empty, so I wrote nothing.  Nothing spawned new layers of understanding, and then more confusion, and then a sense of community, because actually we are all fucking confused, and maybe that's a good place to start.  

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Sunday
Nov062016

Vote for a Vagina!

A vagina has not yet planted itself on the seat behind the desk at the oval office.  The oval office!  

A vagina with a skilled woman attached to it is running for that seat against a brute.  In response to decades of sexist attacks, overt and subtle, this woman has not crawled into a hole, has not given up, has not murdered anyone, has NOT made huge mistakes, has not given up her core principles.  She has constructed a persona that this nation can barely tolerate--somehow delivering a medley of intelligence, ambition, kindness, steadiness, and enthusiasm.  And in response, people hate her.   Young liberal people preferred an older white gentleman offering slogans, and deplorables prefer the Deplorable.  

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Wednesday
Oct192016

Am I a Woman?

and Who is the Other?  

I don't mean to be elliptical.  On the other hand, maybe "egg shaped" is exactly what I'm going for. This year I'm co-facilitating a class exploring how we project onto others what we can't welcome in ourselves.  Our categories are Disability, Race, and Gender.   We started the examination of gender with the question:  

Am I a woman?  Why or Why not?

Here is my answer

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Tuesday
Aug302016

Just Another Racist White Lady

I'm at Far Rockaway because it's the people's beach, not like those fancy beaches you have to take a special train to get to.  This beach has more kids, more festivities, more lifeguards, more noise, more of it all.  It's been a glorious day, playing in the water, watching the joyful families, letting the deep drone of the waves permeate my brain.  Because I trust everyone completely, especially people of color, I often leave my bag on the sand as I take dips into the healing ocean.  

As I'm getting ready to go home, I reach into my bag for something or other and suddenly discover that the pocket where I keep my wallet is completely empty!  Panic!  I shuffle around some more, maybe I was mistaken?  NO, it's really empty! 

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Sunday
Aug282016

or, My Communal Retreat

I've done it the other way.  You know, the vacation where you lie on the beach day after day drinking things with cute toppings and then return to the city accompanied by the deep dread that is only relieved by the agony of actual work beginning.

But now I've turned that whole thing around.  I spend a week practicing Zen meditation and ritual with my community--sweating, greeting demons, and working hard, and then return to what now seems like an incredibly luxurious life.  

 

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Thursday
Aug112016

In Defense of Marie Kondo, or, Insider Feminism

Does it spark joy?  If not, let it go.  

It's easy to mock this instruction from the adorable and slightly insane master of tidiness, Marie Kondo, but I contend that it is an invitation to a radical revolution. Master Kondo advises us not to engage with a thing in the usual way.  Don't read the book or try on the clothing; hold it to your heart and notice what you feel. 

"Pay close attention to how your body responds when you do this.  When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising.  When you hold something that doesn't bring you joy, however, you will notice that your body feels heavier."

Attention to rising cells is revolutionary; it changes everything.

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